Back to North America: NYC edition

Maybe Liechtenstein – Part 6 (March 2017)

Before leaving Switzerland, we spent a night out by the airport as we both had morning flights the next day.  We arrived at the Radisson Blu hotel and checked in for our last night in Switzerland.  I was looking forward to the stay as they have a huge vertical wine library in the center of the hotel.  After finding our room, which faced the inner courtyard (and the wine), we made our way down to watch the acrobats fetch requested bottles from the tower.  It’s actually a neat thing to watch and would suggest having a glass or two if you ever find yourself at this hotel or have some extended time at the airport (since it’s outside security.)

zurich-radisson-blu-wine-bar-airport
Wine bar at Radisson Blu (Zurich Airport)

Sadly, the morning came and my friend left before the sun to catch her early flight home.  I was lucky enough to enjoy a wonderful breakfast before checking out to catch my flight.  My flight home, as you may recall, was a points ticket I’d found about 6 months earlier. I’d managed to snag an AA business class ticket home, although through a circuitous routing.  I was travelling Zurich to New York, with a long overnight layover, before hopping to LA on AA’s transcontinental First Class, then up to Seattle and a little hop home to Vancouver, both on Alaska.

zurich radisson blu
Breakfast spread at Radisson Blu

After spending some time in the lounge during a few small delays in Zurich, it was time to board the plane.  I settled in to seat 2A, which was actually the first row of the cabin.  This plane, a Boeing 767, has staggered seats, so if you want a true window seat, you want to sit in an even row number.  After some pre-departure bubbly it was time to say goodbye to Europe.  The flight was smooth and I did manage to squeeze in a nap as I was going to have a long day ahead of me once I landed.  I will say that I find the vegan/vegetarian meal options on AA to be very sad.  It’s usually just rice and veggies, no creativity in the dishes.

Landing at JFK, I quickly made it through customs (thanks Global Entry!) and grabbed the bag I’d had to check because of all the wine I was bringing home.  I then head up to departures to recheck it  so I wouldn’t have to lug it around all day.  Unfortunatly, this didn’t seem to work so well because my flight didn’t leave until the next day, and there’s a rule about keeping luggage overnight?  After waiting for a while, a lot of back and forth with the staff, and eventually getting a few supervisors involved, I was able to check my luggage.  I guess the solution was to send it on a flight that evening, as my bag made it to Vancouver well before I did.

Free of my luggage, I hopped on the train in to the city.  Getting in to town on public transit is doable, if somewhat time consuming.  First you hop on the “Airtrain” and get off at the Howard Beach/JFK Airport station to transfer to the “A-line.”  This will (eventually) take you into the city.  I hopped off at High Street and decided to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge.  It was a bit chilly, but brilliantly sunny, so it was a fairly pleasant walk.

Making it to Manhattan, I didn’t really have a plan beyond visiting a few of the vegan hot spots.  I ended up making it to Moo Shoes, Orchard Grocer, and Confectionary! before hopping back on the subway and back to Brooklyn for dinner at Champs Diner.

Since my flight left very early the next morning, I decided to rough it in the airport for a few hours in the evening before security opened again at 3am.  I found a few chairs and cobbled them together into a makeshift bench and did manage to get a little bit of shut eye.  Once security opened (not until 3:30, ugh) I made my way inside and tried to find the correct lounge for American.  Of course I chose the wrong one and was told I could actually go to the First Class lounge, which was back by security.  There was construction going on, which made it very confusing as to which lounge was actually open.  Finally making it to the empty lounge, I enjoyed some coffee, a snack, and a shower, before heading to board my next flight, back to the west coast.

Because I had booked international business class, that actually included first class on the domestic leg.  The flight JFK-LAX was a transcontinental flight on the A321 (read fancy, updated plane).  I’m sure I looked slightly disheveled as I boarded the flight and took a seat in the first cabin.  Actually, unless I’m dressed nicely with professional looking luggage (aka not a backpack) I usually get side looks when I line up to board with business class folk… but you just gotta own it!  The lie flat bed definitely came in handy as I managed to pass out for a good portion of the flight.  I also had a really delicious breakfast meal, which was a nice surprise.

aa first class jfk lax
Transcontinental on the A321

Landing in LA, I had a bit of time to kill before heading to Seattle.  Of course, the flight was delayed, but that just meant more time in the First Class lounge in LAX… which is really just a sectioned off the lounge with slightly better food and booze.  After we finally got around to boarding the plane to Seattle, I ended up having a pleasant conversation with the person sitting next to me which made the flight go by much faster.

Seattle was the last stop before the quick flight up to Vancouver and finally being home.  It’s always slightly frustrating to be so close to home, and yet so far.  Spent a little bit of time in the Alaska lounge before it was finally time to board my last flight of the trip.  The good thing about having the last flight of the night is that it’s a 737 for a 30 min flight.  I enjoyed my big lounge chair and had a bit of a cat nap before finally disembarking onto Canadian soil.

 

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Maybe Liechtenstein

Maybe Liechtenstein – Part 5 (February 2017)

If you’ve noticed, this trip was dubbed “Maybe Liechtenstein” (you can search the #maybeliechtenstein hashtag on Instagram to see more fun photos) because we were never really quite sure if we’d make it to the small land locked country.  But we packed up and left our Airbnb in Zurich and once again hopped on the train.  We started with a train ride through Switzerland to Sargens, the main stop closest to the border.  Once you get to this station, you can either take a bus directly to Vaduz, the capital, or take a local train one stop north and then a short bus ride across to the city.  We opted for the bus since we had to transfer to a second bus in order to make it to our hotel, Hotel Kulm, located in the mountains just above the city.

train to liechtenstein
Views from the train on the way to Sargens

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Zurich

Maybe Liechtenstein – Part 3 (February 2017)

I left Paris and hopped on my Air France flight to Zurich (still a part of my points ticket) and I got a chance to visit the Air France lounge for Schengen flights.  Unfortunately it was far away from my gate since the one closest to my gate was under construction.  The lounge was still a nice place to relax before the relatively short flight.  There were lots of drink options, including bottles of Evian, wine, and liquor, and a decent selection of food and snacks.  My flight was nothing too special, due to the short duration and the fact that “European Business Class” is just regular seats with the middle blocked out.

After a short hop from Paris, I arrived in Zurich slightly before my friend, who was coming from a connecting flight in Amsterdam.  There was some crazy weather and most of the flights that day had been cancelled, except for hers luckily!  I tried to meet her at the gate, but the plane ended up being diverted to the auxilary gates with a bus ride to the terminal.  We ended up meeting at baggage claim to pick up her luggage.  Of course, she made the flight but sadly her bag did not, due to a super tight connection.  After filing the appropriate paperwork, we were off to Zurich. Continue reading

Homeless for 2 months…

As I sit here in the final stages of cleaning my apartment, I’m realizing it really hasn’t looked this good since I moved in.  But why am I cleaning it?  Because I’m subletting my apartment to help fund my travels for the next two months.

After looking at my Calendar for September and October, I realized I’d be lucky to hit double digits of days I’m actually in Vancouver.  Since it kinda bothered me that my place would just be sitting empty most of the time, I decided to embrace the nomad lifestyle and put everything in storage (aka other people’s houses) and see what I could accomplish in two months. Continue reading

5 Tips for Maximizing Your Points

I get asked often how I travel so much, but really there’s no simple answer to that.  It’s a combination of many things: keeping an eye on flight deals, searching message boards, taking crazy routings, and last but certainly not least, using points.  Points tickets have allowed me to make some spectacular trips, but I do spend a great deal of time trying to optimize them.

For many years I was a loyal Aeroplan customer, part of the Star Alliance network.  However, after continued devaluations of the program, and the fact that United was the partner in the US, I made the jump over to Alaska Airline’s Mileage Program.  Although the program is not part of an alliance, they have many great partners you can redeem on.  I feel that this program is the best for me in terms of point redemption opportunities, but everyone is different. Continue reading

3 ticket, 6 fights, and 56 hours…

In order to get a good deal on tickets, I’m willing to fly a bit out of the way; okay a lot out of the way.  My flight home from Sweden was not only long, but ended up being longer than anticipated.

The journey started out decently.  I found a cheap flight to Istanbul on AtlasGlobal which arrived late on the Saturday night, with plenty of time to make my connection.  Since these were two separate tickets I wanted to allow for a lot of time in case something went wrong; luckily, it didn’t.  AtlasGlobal is a discount carrier based in Turkey, but they are much better than any other “discount” airline I’ve flown, such as EasyJet or Ryan Air.  The flight from Stockholm to Istanbul was on time, and fairly pleasant.  With free food, free drinks, and a row to myself, it was a lot better than many flights in North America.  I will say that someone was allowing their children to run up and down the aisle, jumping on seats.  Some people just have no clue.  I was close to saying something, but then the drink cart came by and blocked them in the back of the plane for a while… and the wine also helped. Continue reading

Flashback Friday: First Trip to the UAE

November 2015

Warning to my friends: if you move somewhere, I will come visit you.  This is not an empty threat.  Some friends who had relocated to Dubai found this out first hand 🙂

After a late arrival (or early morning depending how you look at it) my friends picked me up at the airport and I promptly crashed for a few hours to catch up on sleep.  After waking up and reorienting myself, it was off to explore Dubai Marina (the area where my friends lived)! This, of course, included a stop at Starbucks. Continue reading

Out and About in Stockholm

While planning my visit with my friend, we had discussed what there was to do around Stockholm and had compiled a decent list. Of course I was a bit wary of spending a whole week in one place, so I started looking for super cheap flights that we could take… long story short (details to come) we ended up heading to Finland in the middle of my stay.

But first, there was Stockholm!  For those unfamiliar, Swedes love taking coffee breaks with friends in the afternoon.  They actually have made up a term for sitting and chatting with friends while having a coffee and perhaps a snack: Fika.  So of course, after meeting up with my friend at the train station and dropping of my bags, it was time for fika.  We ended up heading to a nearby mall, as they just outside of the centre of town.  We did a bit of wandering through the mall, grabbed some necessities (like some food and wine… and some more wine) and had a quiet evening at home with some board games. Continue reading

A Weekend in Europe

I’ll cover more details of my travels later, but since everyone thinks I was crazy for doing it, I though I would add a blog post about what I did the other weekend.  In Europe.

Yes, it’s been pointed out to me a few times that going all that way for a long weekend is a bit ridiculous; however, I knew it would be later in the year and I wouldn’t have that much vacation time left, so I took a 4 day weekend and ran with it.

Dinner in the UK

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A quick update from my travels

I’ve been having a wonderful time in Stockholm visiting my friends and even had a chance to jump over to Helsinki for the day on the infamous “Party Ferry”.  While the trip over was relatively painless (except for the pure number of stopovers), the trip home is a different story.  I left my friends around noon, which is 3am in Vancouver on Saturday morning.  I will not arrive home until just around midnight on Sunday evening.  Almost 48 hours of travel.

Now don’t feel too bad for me, all flights -except the first leg on a discount carrier – are in business class.  Plus I have the recent addition of my Priority Pass (which I’m currently using to relax in the lounge in Stockholm) so I doubt it will be too hectic.  Unless some of the storms hitting the Pacific Northwest affect my flights.  But that’s a whole other issue.  So for now I will just sit back, relax, and enjoy my 45 hour journey home.

view from the plane window